I always find it difficult to just stick to the race day in a race report, because the race day is the finale in a series events leading up to the day. And so much of what happens before race day influences race day choices and decisions.
Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon was my first
- Olympic Distance
- River Swim
- “Away” Triathlon
So needless to say, it was a big one for me.
But there was something else that distracted me from all the firsts (I promise I’ll write about it next! And I will be as open and honest about it as I can be without sinking from embarrassment … ) and it was a BIG personal first. I wasn’t happy about that at all, but it wasn’t completely new so I asked a few girls and came up with a plan that I thought would work best for me.(I will update!)
The family and I drove up on Saturday afternoon and they dropped me off at packet pickup and headed to rock city. (Traveling to races with family – another post for another day!).
Pick up was very easy – look up number and get blue wristband (for beer as I learnt later), get number, get chip and done.
I bumped into Reiko and walked with her to check into the hotel. I didn’t have anything to do since my bike and the bags were with the rest of the clan in the car. So I freshened up and headed to dinner at the Big River Grille that Megan had booked for the No Boundaries crew. Pre race dinner with friends was a GOOD idea! They gave me tips on the race and we talked and laughed and generally forgot that I had a race the next day!
Pam and Reiko invited me back to their room afterwards to go over things that was new to me. And that would be – EVERYTHING! Did I mention that it was my first Olympic distance!
So I verbally went through everything (making up as I was going along) what I was going to do from the point of waking up to the end of the race. They were a little concerned about my nutrition but since I use UCan and both of them don’t, there was nothing to do but trust that what I’d figured out would work!
The rest of the evening until bedtime was utter chaos and hell!
Here I was trying to put things together and making sure I had all my bases covered, and then there was …. everyone else! Oh, what would I not have given for a calm voice of reason amongst the chaos!! But as all things go, eventually things calmed down and was put out of mind to focus on the task at hand.
As I was leaving, my little one woke up to give me a hug and to tell me not to finish before they came around. Ha! There was no fear of that! Laurie called me with a wakeup call to make sure that I didn’t have a repeat of Blalock Lakes.
Pam, Reiko and I walked the 200m or so and checked in the bike and set up transition. I had the 3 sports separated while packing and transition seemed simple. The transition racks were set up great with names for each row instead of letters/numbers and that was awesome! To avoid that Blalock Lakes Triathlon confusion of finding my rack, I went to the swim exit and traced my path. I then went to the bike finish and traced my path as well. Twice.
I went around looking for people I knew and made some new acquaintances as well. After some point, I sort of went on robot mode and just followed people into the bus to the swim start, completely forgetting that I had told Carrie that I was going to wait for her to get me a 5Q (50 Women to Kona) tattoo (sorry Chica, I have mushy mommy racing brains!).
We then went to look at the actual start – the walk to the dock and the place you slide into the water. Met more people while waiting around for the swim. And talked. And learnt. And discussed. And laughed.
I may have been a little quieter than I usually am, but I think that is because I was focused. Nervous a little, but it was more being serious and being determined to do my best. I even took a funny photo with Meghan Degan, Atlanta area pro-triathlete who is an absolute kickass sweetheart.
So basically, this is all leading up to say – I WAS PERFECTLY FINE leading up to the race!
I joined the line to the dock with the other 800s(my number was 811) and started the walk. I was fine. I may even have joked with the others.
Walked down the green carpet, goggles on like Pam had told me to, and slid into the water easily. I was fine and eager to start this.
And then …
I was petrified.
Absolutely shell shock petrified. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move and I wouldn’t let go the dock. I was visibly and loudly telling myself I’m ok, I can do this. But I was making it worse. The water was a warm 82F and it was NOT the cold water this time around. I don’t know what happened, but I was taken aback at my reaction! I had gone through the swim so many times in my mind and not once had I felt the slightest worry. And so I hadn’t thought of what I’d do in the extreme case of sheer terror when faced with the swim.
And I will tell again – I don’t know what happened. This wasn’t something I worked myself up over. This was something that hit me unexpectedly when I thought I had OWS under control. I couldn’t comprehend anything, I couldn’t see the river or the people or anything around me or my happy place, I couldn’t think – it was an abstract panic in my mind. And if ANYONE tells me that it was all in my head, I am going to throw a right hook and tell you – it was NOT in my head.
The swim volunteers were concerned enough for one of them to come over and hold my hand. She told me to take my time until I was ready. Bubbles, bubbles. Bubbles is good for hyperventilation. I sucked in air in the water and hyperventilated more. But I kept at it. Lots of bobbing in and out and bubbles and talking to myself and I finally calmed down enough to think about the swim again.
And once I could think, thoughts flooded in –
What is happening to me?
You are being an idiot, that is what.
Why am I putting myself through this?
Remember that about facing fears and goal?
This is a stupid triathlon, who cares!
You do, and you’ve been working for it.
Its not worth this moment of helplessness.
It’s worth everything you’ve prepared for.
The voices went on and on. And had the surprising effect of calming me from that sheer panic.
That petrified moment – I didn’t know what to do with.
These voices – I know how to deal with them!
So I asked myself one last question, as calmly as I could – You need to decide NOW. Do you want to let go of the dock and swim (the distance was never my issue) or do you want to ask for help and forfeit the race?
Well … there was NO WAY I was forfeiting, especially with my senses coming back to me. So let’s do this together (me, my voices and I). With a “Geronimo” (yes Whovians, I really did yell that), I let go and swam.
The second I let go, I felt an unbelievable wave of calmness sweep through me. All that sheer panic just minutes ago was gone like it never was. And I swam. I sort of saw the buoys but for most part it felt like I was following people. I had a steady and uneventful swim except when I overshot the exit dock and had to swim back up a bit in panic.
A volunteer pulled me out and I gave her a hug as I went up the steps. No feeling dizzy like I did after the swim at Blalock Lakes.
I drank my UCan bottle that I had kept in T1. Why did I not choose to put it in a bottle and drink it on the bike? Because I wanted to make sure that I actually drank it and I was afraid that if I had it on my bike, I’d be nervous about pulling it out and drinking – especially over that first hill that Brad had talked about. And I’m glad I did because that first hill getting out of T1 was a $#%#$%, even though I saw the kids and Mr. FauxTriathlete on the way out.
That hill – went on … forever and ever and ever. Then we turned the corner and the hill went on even more … and then we went up the freeway ramp and the hill went on and on … And that that was the story of the whole bike course. The incline up was way more than the way down. I was either in the smallest gear or the biggest gear. And I kept going. I entertained myself in my head with songs and jokes and incidents and happiness and frustrations and dreams and hopes.
There was one point on the bike course when a car drove up super close to me and the driver gave me the middle finger and yelled at me “Stay off the road, Asshole”. He drove up ahead and slowed down (traffic was sparse) and I had a moment of huge panic of what he’d do. But luckily, I was so slow that there was no way I was going to even get close to the car! There were a ton honks and thumbs up and shouts of “go girl”, so that isolated incident didn’t sour me too much.
A LOT of people had overtaken me in the first 5 miles over that huge hill. I overtook a couple towards the last 5 miles. I was absolutely THRILLED! I was fearless on the downhills because it was a straight line and I could see far. There was one point where I was going so fast that I tried to remember what I had read on how to tuck in and get more speed. Yes, me. The one who never catches any speed 🙂
I spotted the minions in their matching sparkly skirts just outside the dismount line. And I had a smooth dismount. I ran the bike in and I was feeling great – I knew I had gotten to my favorite part of the triathlon and all I had to do was hang in through the 10k.
I was surprised how good I felt starting on the run. No shaky bike legs (huge difference riding only 25 miles vs. riding 50 miles!).
Big hill going up from T2 and I didn’t feel it. When I crested that hill – I gave a BIG grin – I had run up that hill without any problem, I didn’t walk up and I didn’t feel the need to – just baby steps up and I kept going.
Oh I was enjoying myself so much on the run! I was smiling at everyone coming back (even though I was atleast 1hr behind them). I saw Laurie and Marietta and Alice and some other people I’d just met earlier in the day. The runners cheered me on and a lot of them called out “Looking good, Sparkles” and “Keep going, skirt”. Loved it all. After about mile 2, it became a bit lonely but I kept going. I was waiting for the time when I’d have to mentally pull things together but it never came.
I ran steadily all throughout and after the turn around, every 0.5 miles I’d ask myself if I could give a little more. The last 1.5-2 miles, I started passing people which made me so so so happy! A steep hill almost stopped me, just for a minute though – to get water and ice cool towels (those were wonderful! I had one tucked into my front and one around my neck and poured cold water on my head). Before I knew it, it was all hills up and downhill to the finish.
The chute was completely empty and people had almost left but I got a huge cheer from the Time Warner team who were getting together for photos. I stood for a few seconds at the finish to savor that moment (and hopefully a good photo op).
Good? A GREAT photo op thanks to Laurie’s friend.
First Olympic Distance Triathlon – Done!
It was a great day and I surprised myself.
I was a wreck at the swim and almost didn’t start the race, yes, but got through it knowing that the only option forward was to get a grip somehow. I was calm once I started and enjoyed it, even the hard bike course and I loved being called Sparkles on the run. And I was smiling all through. Since I worked it out by myself, I didn’t really have a time goal but I’d estimated about 4hrs and I was 4hrs 19 seconds. I would’ve liked to be a bit faster on the run by just 2 minutes maybe (I was 1:22 @13:13 pace), but I don’t think I’m too displeased considering that I just ran and wasn’t trying for any sort of time splits. And I certainly did not sit back and relax on the run.
I put up a good showing (for me) despite the big personal first, and the confusion, and the vagueness of the night before. I did not let any external factors affect me. That is not to say that it didn’t – it did. I let myself have a moment (or two or three…) and moved on. I embraced the chaos and accepted that I was going to get very little sleep and instead of being frustrated with that, I chose to count sheep and pretended to be in my happy place.
I might have that DLF with my name in every race but I KNOW now that I am much stronger than what I give myself credit for – both physically and mentally when I put my heart to it.
I’m Linking up with Tara from Running’n’Reading for the Weekend Update and with Jessica from rUnLadyLike for her week-in-review LinkUp and the Tri Talk Tuesday link-up hosted by Cynthia at You Signed up for What?!, Courtney at The TriGirl Chronicles, and Phaedra at Blisters and Black Toenails.
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